I started my series on Cambodia all the way back in January of this year, only to flip flop to writing about other trips. It’s always nagged at me how lonely my one post on Cambodia was–so now it’s finally time to revive this series!
Day 1: Arrival at the Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra
The Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra is a travel guide, textbook case of what you would imagine a luxury hotel in Southeast Asia to be like. It is, in the long line of luxury hotels off of Charles De Gaulle Road, a glorious bubble for the fortunate traveler to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of the outside. There was none of that New York impatience: “is my room ready?”, “why is the line so long?” “when will my bags be brought in?”. No, this world moved at 0.6x fewer frames per second. French colonial elegance with Cambodian influence. A zephyr would peek under the legs of sheer, white curtains shyly covering poolside villas. The soft tinkling of a roneat ek–a xylophone used in Khmer classical music–danced through the air. Plump coconuts jostled jollily under the shade of glimmering, verdant fronds.
I could go on forever, but I won’t. There are more aspects of this day to fond over: dinner. After settling down, meandering through the grounds of the resort, our tour group reassembled in the lobby to head to dinner. We were shuttled down the main road through Siem Reap, Charles De Gaulle, for no more than 1/4-mile before our bus driver masterfully backed into the cozy parking lot of our restaurant. Stepping stones led the way over a small pond, past baby palms, into the warmly-lit accommodations.
As always, the carnivores and omnivores of our group were lovingly lavished with a banquet of fresh seafood plated in carved boats, and colorful arrays of satay and skewered meats. Not to say that we vegetarians were forgotten (completely)! My mom and I were treated to a few pretty tasty dishes that had surprisingly Chinese flavors, rather than Cambodian.
First up was a piping-hot vegetable soup with seaweed, cabbage, tomato, silken tofu, and deep-fried tofu skin. Perfect for the highly air-conditioned room we were sitting in.
Next up was deep-fried tofu strips stir-fried with bean sprouts and some sort of lily plant (?) that looked like chives or string beans. The veggies were fresh, crisp, and sweet like all vegetables should be. Not too oily either.
Dessert–which we unfortunately had to share with everyone else 😉 — was nom plai ai. Glutinous rice balls filled with palm sugar and topped with copious amounts of shredded unsweetened coconut. Freshly-cut pineapple slices served on the side. Out of this world. I’ve had my fair share of glutinous rice balls [湯圓 tang yuan in Chinese], usually filled with black sesame paste, but there’s something special to be said about coconut. Anyway, I’ve linked to a recipe for nom plai ai above and may be trying it out soon myself.
I was also able to catch a glimpse of the Robam Preah Reach Trop, or Khmer classical dance, that was happening for those who decided to dine at the Sofitel. Such beauty in small movements.